Just over two weeks out from Ireland's crucial Euro 2020 play-off with Slovakia, it has now been confirmed that the game will be played behind closed doors in an attempt to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Irish supporters who were preparing to travel to the stadium will no doubt be disappointed by the news, but for now at least, it will allow Mick McCarthy and his squad to prepare for the task at hand.
— FAIreland ⚽️🇮🇪 (@FAIreland) March 10, 2020
Brian Kerr and Kevin Kilbane appeared on Virgin Media Sport for the Champions League coverage and while discussing the impact of the coronavirus on the European football schedule, both were of the opinion that a closed stadium will work to Ireland's advantage being the away side in Slovakia.
Kerr: I always thought it was likely. It's an unfortunate situation for so many Irish fans who have booked to go there. I believe roughly 2,500 people were due to travel.
I think it's the sensible move. From a football point of view, which is less relevant, I think it gives the Republic of Ireland a better chance because I think as players and a manager, you would want to go to an away match without any of the opposition's fans in the ground trying to affect the result of the fixture, affect the referee's decisions, the linesman's decisions, the hostility that there can be and the intensity that's involved in these games.
It's a more comfortable environment, it's a strange environment without a doubt. But I think given the public health issues and the potential for a vast increase in the numbers of people who could be affected by the coronavirus, it's a very serious situation and we can't isolate football and say 'we're immune to all of that.'
Kilbane: It will certainly be in their (the players) minds. But ultimately there is a job to do. I do feel as though we have more of an advantage playing behind closed doors, I do think that. Given the atmosphere that will be generated over there in Slovakia, I think it will help Mick, I think it will help the team. And I think the players can just fully focus now on the game, that's the way it has to be.
We all understand there is a much more serious issue here. There's a wider issue that is going on, this will continue over a number of weeks and months ahead. But if we're solely going to talk about the game itself, that will definitely help Ireland going into the game and I think it will help Mick. Mick will maybe try and downplay it as much as he can and try and say, look, it's 11 v 11, which it is, but it will certainly help the side.